The mixture of my readings today include:
- "The Travels of Fa Hien" (Chinese Buddhist monk from the 1st century CE)
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (for a class I teach on satire)
- "Why Did Human History Unfold How It Did Over the Past 13,000 Years?" by Jared Diamond (a speech summarizing his main arguments from his groundbreaking book Guns, Germs and Steel)
- Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
- Any article related to the plight of adjuncts, since today is National Adjunct Walkout Day
It's true, adjunct professors have it tough in a lot of ways. I know, because I am one. We tend to have heavier teaching schedules than our full-time and tenure-track colleagues. We often have to travel to many campuses in a single day, and we make significantly less money to do so. Out here in California, we have it good -- I can actually pay my bills with the money I earn. However, in other parts of the country, people are making $1,500 a class (or less). Do the math. Teaching a full 5-5 load, an adjunct would make $15,000/year on that sum. I'm not exaggerating.
My Fall Semester entailed traveling to San Diego State University from 2 pm - 10 pm each Monday, then teaching an 8:00 am course the following day at SDSU. After meeting with students in my office hours, I would drive to a second campus for a 12:30 pm course at Mesa (15 minutes north), followed by more office hours before a 6:00 pm course at UCSD (15 more minutes north). I would get home between 8:30 and 9:00 pm -- just enough time to get my materials ready for the following day.
Rinse, repeat every Tuesday/Thursday.
I worked roughly 50 hours a week before factoring in grading. Giving a conservative 20 minutes to each student's paper (because, after all, my job is to make them better students), multiplying that by the 120 students I have, three to four papers per class in the semester… I won't bore you. We work a lot.
It's a double-edged sword, though, because for many of us, our passion is teaching bright young minds on college campuses. I don't want to find another job -- not because I'm lazy, but because I truly love spending my days on a college campus. Being surrounded by people who truly feel that the next phase in their life will be better than the current phase is a unique and beautiful privilege. It brings me great joy to meet, work with, and get to know my students academically and personally. I cherish those connections.
But the only way things will get better for adjuncts is if we do not make it so easy for administrators. I wish I had muscle, clout, whatever. I don't. I just have a small voice that is good at inspiring students to think. Unfortunately, in a capitalistic society, thinking is worth $0.00.
Until we can convince the leaders of our government, of our educational institutions, and of our world that education simply is more valuable than the profit margin, this industry will be stuck between a rock and a hard place. And make no mistake -- education is more important than money.
I have a feeling that things will crash before my time is up. Student loans will continue to default. Colleges will close. The job market will become so overcrowded that they will be able to hire professors on food stamp salaries. Or close. But the point is that anyone out there reading this who has a say -- say something. Work to help some of the most dedicated, big hearted folks in our nation get their recognition.
And maybe -- just maybe -- a livable wage.
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